Sunday 15 December 2019

Bailey civil suit to hear details of 'explosive' tapes in Sophie case

Sophie Toscan du Plantier
Sophie Toscan du Plantier

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

THE High Court is expected to hear further details today about the recording of phone calls related to the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder case.

It will be the first hearing in the civil suit being taken against the State by former suspect Ian Bailey since it emerged that over 130 separate tape recordings, most of them recorded secretly, had been made in connection with the case.

The potentially explosive trove of tapes contains recordings of calls involving gardai, witnesses and journalists, garda sources have confirmed.

The content of the tapes has been described as "explosive" by the Department of Justice's secretary general Brian Purcell.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan retired last week on the same day that Taoiseach Enda Kenny disclosed that phone calls had been routinely taped at garda stations since the 1980s.

The Toscan du Plantier tapes are among 2,693 recordings discovered nationwide since last autumn.

Of the recordings linked to this case, the largest number relating to a single individual were with Marie Farrell, a key witness who initially implicated Ian Bailey in the December 1996 murder.

However, in 2005 she withdrew her statements, saying that she had been pressurised by gardai. She was involved in 36 recordings.

There are also 18 separate recordings involving former British soldier Martin Graham. He has claimed that he was given drugs and money by gardai in return for befriending Mr Bailey and seeking to draw a confession from him.

The claims have been denied by the gardai who handled Mr Graham.

Eight of the Graham recordings were previously known about and were arranged specifically by his garda handlers.

However, it appears the other 10 were recorded secretly and that the gardai who spoke to him may not have known they were being recorded.

Mr Bailey is suing the State for alleged wrongful arrest. His solicitor Frank Buttimer declined to comment on the details disclosed ahead of today's hearing.


The inventory lists 42 recordings relating to conversations between gardai and journalists, while a further 37 were of phone calls between gardai and other members of the force.

Conference calls between local gardai and senior officers in Dublin were also recorded.

Meanwhile, the Dail's spending watchdog has heard how up to €50,000 a year was spent maintaining the controversial garda phone call taping system.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday decided to examine the signing of a 2008 contract for the installation and maintenance of the equipment in up to 20 garda facilities around the country. PAC member Shane Ross said the committee needed to ascertain whether the contract was legal.

The committee will also seek to examine contracts for the recording of phone calls in prisons, following revelations conversations between 139 prisoners and defence solicitors were recorded.

Comptroller & Auditor General Seamus McCarthy said he understood that as part of the contract there was an annual cost of between €40,000 and €50,000 for the maintenance of the system.

He added that while the tendering process would have been examined by his office in 2008, the "business case" for using the equipment would not have been.

Earlier this week, a report by Department of Justice secretary general Brian Purcell said the department's understanding had always been that only garda radio messages and calls routed through garda control rooms, such as emergency calls, were recorded for operational purposes. It was on this basis that the department sanctioned the installation of new recording equipment, he said.

"At no stage was the department alerted that more extensive recording was being, or was proposed to be, undertaken," said Mr Purcell.

Although it had been known for over a decade that recordings had been made by gardai of phone calls with witnesses in the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder case, Mr Purcell said: "This did not give rise to an appreciation that there was in place a system of routine recordings of phone conversations and there was no indication that there was any wider system in garda stations generally."

Irish Independent

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